Lipton, Seymour

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LIPTON, SEYMOUR (1903–1986), U.S. sculptor. Born in New York City, Lipton showed a predilection for art as a child. His parents, however, discouraged his ambitions and he received a D.D.S. degree from Columbia University in 1927. While practicing as a dentist, Lipton began carving stylized sculptures with Social Realist themes out of wood. He had a one-man show in 1938 and two years later started teaching sculpture at the New School for Social Research in New York (1940–65). By the mid-1940s Lipton was welding Surrealist-inspired forms out of lead, later using steel, and by 1955 Monel metal. Lipton worked in stages, conceptualizing a sculpture on paper, making a maquette, and then fabricating the metal sculpture.

The events of World War ii influenced Lipton's subject matter, which evolved from specific representational themes to more timeless abstract comments on the human condition. Figuration seemed inadequate to describe the devastation of war, and in 1942 he began to work abstractly in metals. Moby Dick #2 (1948, private collection), a bronze abstraction of Herman Melville's whale, appears fierce with spikes or possibly teeth projecting from rounded forms. Similar predatory imagery would recur at various times throughout Lipton's career. Around 1948 Lipton began exploring cage themes in works such as Imprisoned Figure (Museum of Modern Art, New York). Experiencing a sense of renewal with the war several years in the past, in the 1950s Lipton welded dynamic vertical or horizontal pieces exhibiting traces of organic life such as Jungle Bloom (1954, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven), a bronze on steel sculpture from the "Bloom" series.

His sculptures decorate several buildings in the United States, including the Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center, New York; Temple Israel, Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Temple Beth-El, Gary, Indiana.


A. Elsen, Seymour Lipton (1970); H. Rand, Seymour Lipton: Aspects of Sculpture (1979); L. Verderame, An American Sculptor: Seymour Lipton (1999).

[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]